Start Small, Start with Success: IMIL for Educators and Families

Posted by Christine Cox on

Take a moment to digest the first part of the title of this post: Start Small, Start with Success. This could be relevant for almost anything in life. If you take the time to start small, learn all of the information you can and then build upon that, then you are likely setting yourself up for success.

Let’s talk about how this relates specifically to educators, family, and children. Have you ever heard of IMIL? If not, let’s start small by first researching what this is.

I Am Moving, I Am Learning

IMIL is a proactive approach to childhood obesity in preschool classrooms that seeks to:

  • Increase moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) every day
  • Improve the quality of movement activities intentionally planned and facilitated by adults
  • Promote healthy food choices

This popular initiative to combat childhood obesity was launched nationally by the federal Office of Head Start. In 2004, Choosy Kids’ very own Dr. Linda Carson was asked to assemble a training team and help develop appropriate materials for an IMIL training. IMIL has continued to be an exemplary training platform for early child care and education staff. IMIL adds value to current curriculums, enhances physical activity and nutrition learning experiences into daily routines, and makes moving fun again for adults and children thanks to music specifically created to get the body dancing and the heart pumping!

For the Educators

IMIL is for everyone! Even though it was created to help young children prevent obesity and promote health, it is important for educators/staff to care for themselves too. A study of nutrition knowledge, behaviors, and attitudes of specifically Head Start staff revealed that they struggle with their own health issues. There seems to be a high prevalence of overweight and weight loss attempts by the Head Start educators/staff, even though 81% stated that they would like to weigh less.

Bottom line: we must also nurture the nurturer. There are three goals when applying IMIL to educator/staff wellness:

  1. Increase the quantity of time spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) during daily routines to meet national guidelines for physical activity.
  2. Improve the quality of structured movement experiences intentionally facilitated by teachers and staff (adults).
  3. Improve healthy food choices for everyone, every day.

Research has shown that short bursts of MVPA throughout the day yields significant health benefits. For adults, elevating your heart rate for the duration of just 10 minutes can yield improvements in blood pressure, mood, and attention span!

An idea to start small, start with success is to add “MVPA Breaks” to your work day. Meetings are more fun, people are more alert, and people may be in better moods all because of those 10 minutes of activity. On most days, adults in early learning environments can meet these guidelines by simply being an active play partner. Those kids can keep us all on our toes!

For the Family

IMIL strategies can be implemented with children, families, staff, and community partners. When working with children, it is important to share the messages learned in the classroom with the family and have the family try to implement the same strategies into their home life.

Remember those three IMIL goals for the educators/staff? They can also be applied to families at home! It is important to remember that we all have to care for ourselves. So even mom and dad should be outside running around, getting their hearts beating with their children. Additionally, families should eat wholesome, healthy meals together. Watch your sugar intake and eat loads of fruits and vegetables!

A fun example for children is when they learn something new at school that their parents are unable to teach them at home. Yoga is very popular and even preschoolers are learning some fun moves that adults wouldn’t learn at the studio. Preschool yoga is more about stretching and body control. So if your children come home from preschool and are telling you about the yoga moves they learned, try it out with them! Get up and get stretching into butterfly, frog and dog positions. You will both laugh and enjoy the exercise and time together.

Set Your Goals and Achieve Them

It’s important to remember to start with small, achievable goals as a staff or family.  This will increase your chances for success and likelihood of setting another goal. Some strategies to help you achieve your goals are:

  • Must be actionable
  • Easy to implement
  • Focus on small steps to increase likelihood of success
  • Check-in on progress
  • Work with staff/family to address barriers
  • Celebrate successes

Where to Learn More About IMIL

If you are an educator or childcare staff member, you can request a training or more information from Choosy Kids. Choosy Kids conducts nationwide and international IMIL trainings so we can help facilitate a training in your area.

If you are a parent and want to know if your child’s teachers and staff use IMIL in their current curriculum, simply ask what they do to get the children up and moving for short bursts of physical activity every day. If they need some ideas, point them to the teacher’s section of

Choosy Kids would also be happy to speak directly with any parents or educators/staff about IMIL. We’d love to hear your feedback, best practices and strategies that you have implemented in the classroom and home. Contact us through various ways listed on our website,


Larson, N., Ward, D., Neelon, S., Story, M. What role can child-care play in obesity prevention? A review of the evidence and call for research efforts. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2011:111:1343-1362.

Sharma S, Dortch KS, Williams CB, et al. Nutrition-related knowledge, attitudes, and dietary behaviors among Head Start Teachers in Texas: A cross-sectional study. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2013;113(4):558-562. doi:10.1016/j

Whitaker RC, Becker BD, Herman AN, Gooze RA. The Physical and Mental Health of Head Start Staff: The Pennsylvania Head Start Staff Wellness Survey, 2012. Prev Chronic Dis 2013;10:130171. DOI

Whitaker RC, Tracy DW, Gooze RA, Becker BD, Gallagher KC, McEwen BS, Adverse childhood experiences, dispositional mindfulness, and adult health. Preventive Medicine, Volume 67, October 2014, Pages 147–153

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